wtorek, 30 kwietnia 2013

Jazz City Choir – Jazz City Choir (2012)

Małgorzata Korczyńska - Dyrektor, Dyrektor Artystyczny
Anna Gadt - Music Director, conductor, soloist
Joanna Kucharczyk - I soprano
Agata Sasinowska - I soprano
Magdalena Stróżek - II soprano
Małgorzata Romańska - II soprano
Ewa Barczyńska - alto
Aleksandra Bogucka - alto
Grzegorz Duszak - tenor
Adam Konowalski - bass
Karol Yamazaki - bass

AMI 001

By Adam Baruch

This is the excellent debut album by Polish vocal ensemble Jazz City Choir, which comprises of nine female and male vocalists singing together arrangements of Jazz compositions in a new and unprecedented way. Although vocal Jazz ensembles, usually quartets, have a longstanding tradition in Jazz, and even in their native Poland (the superb NOVI quartet), there were very few attempts to take Jazz vocals to the full extent of choir level, like this one. Listeners familiar with this particular niche might remember the work of Singers Unlimited, which also used a choir effect, but it was achieved by multi-tracking the four members of the ensemble, whereas here we have a genuine choir at hand.

The album presents six compositions, four of which are Jazz standards arranged by Pawel Zielak, the choir's house arranger, and two compositions created especially for the choir, one by its soprano singer Joanna Kucharczyk and another by composer Jan Sanejko, a young and very talented person worth watching!. Five of the six compositions feature a lead soloist, which in four cases is the choir's music director and conductor Anna Gadt and in one case the wonderful Polish singer Grzegorz Karnas. Five of the compositions feature vocalese only and one – Chick Corea's "Spain" – features partly lyrics, written by Al Jarreau and sung in English.

The initial impact of this album is completely overwhelming; the power, complexity and inherent beauty of human voices harmonizing and building up multi-layered structures, multiplied by ten individual sound signatures, is breathtaking. Of course in time the initial shock gives way to a more articulate reception, but moving on into the music the stimulation of brain cells continues up to the moment when the very last sound resonates into silence. This is really something else…

Of course a detached and coolheaded analysis reveals certain problems and imperfections, most serious of which is the dichotomy between the musical devices (in this case choral devices) used by the choir, which almost all originate in the world of Classical Music or even earlier musical forms like Medieval chants or early Church music. The transition of these devices into the world of Jazz has puzzled many composers / performers over the years, with varying results. Nevertheless, Jazz City Choir manages to swing at all times, which after all is the basic quality one expects from anything under the Jazz umbrella, even if their tools and paraphernalia originate in another world. Using lyrics, and especially in English, was a completely unnecessary move, exposing their weakest link, but considering it is a minor part of the entire presentation, it can be easily forgiven and hopefully forgotten.

Overall this is a stunning debut and the thought what these people might come up with next is scary (in a positive way). I simply can't wait! It's an absolute most for anybody fond of vocal Jazz in all forms and shapes and of course for connoisseurs of the Jazz-Classical Fusion sub-genre. Respect!

poniedziałek, 29 kwietnia 2013

Uda – Lowy Kraby (2013)

Lukasz Krzywicki - guitar
Kuba Sienczyk - bass
Michal Zawadzki - drums


By Adam Baruch

This is the third album by young Polish Fusion trio Uda, which comprises of guitarist Lukasz Krzywicki, bassist Kuba Sienczyk and drummer Michal Zawadzki. This album features guest appearances by guitarist Apostolis Anthimos, bassist Krzysztof Scieranski and accordionist Marcin Galazyn. There are thirteen original compositions, which are supposedly co-created by the group members, since no composing credits are specified.

The main point about this music seems to be to offer something quite "different", and different it is. Mixing virtually every style and genre known to man and shunning from nothing, including ridiculous Rap moments, this music is a hodgepodge quite difficult to swallow sometimes. Heavy Metal riffs seem to be the preferred weapon of choice, but there are also quiet passages, which sound quite interesting. Although this music has a strong improvisational element it is much closer to avant-garde Rock than to Fusion. Of course the whole point is to make this music impossible to categorize. The first association is the early music of Frank Zappa, not that Uda are remotely close to his musical genius (nobody is), but the total disregard of form and established rules are also there.

Of course these youngsters can play, and they play well, even exceptionally well, when they do. Many of their devices seem to be borrowed or perhaps purposely used in a form of mockery or ridicule, which works also pretty well. Overall, in spite of the apparent chaos and mayhem, there seems to be a hidden sense behind all this façade of "we don't give a damn". If only they concentrated on what they play rather than on how they play it, things would be much more interesting.

Obviously this music is not very inviting, but for listeners willing to suffer a little, there are definitely many hidden treasures in there. Just keep an open mind and protect your ears! I must say I prefer young musicians experimenting and breaking the rules the way Uda do, rather than join the wave of conformity and produce the usual garbage, which makes you puke instantly. So respect for the courage to be different, and please just a little more focus next time around.

Flamingo – Flamingo (Swinging Tricity Vol.4) (2013)

Jerzy Derfel - piano
Andrzej Dorawa - trombone
Piotr Nadolski - trumpet
Janusz Nalaskowski - drums
Henryk Pietrewicz - bass
Ryszard Podgorski - trumpet
Eugeniusz Pudelewicz - clarinet
Edward Rykaczewski - trombone
Jan Tomaszewski - trombone
Lucjan Wozniak - banjo


By Adam Baruch

This is the fourth installment in the excellent archival series documenting Polish Jazz created in the country's Tricity on the Baltic Sea, one of the important centers where Polish Jazz thrives and over the years produced numerous first-rate musicians and superb bands. The series presents material, which in most cases never previously appeared in any form and therefore is of immense historic importance.

This chapter presents the Flamingo ensemble, a Traditional Jazz outfit, which was very popular locally as well as in the rest of the country and even participated in the prestigious annual Jazz Jamboree Festival in Warsaw. The group was founded in the late 1950's, following the great Polish Jazz rebirth after the two historic Sopot (one of the Tricity cities) festivals in 1956 and 1957, which were a turning point in Polish Jazz history. The ensemble existed for about a dozen years until the late 1960s, and unfortunately never managed to record even one album, which sadly was the fate of many Polish Jazz artists during the Socialist regime. However they did record for the Tricity Polish Radio station in Gdansk, where most of the material included on this album comes from, except for five tracks that come from the 1961 Jazz Jamboree Festival, which were previously released by the state owned record label Polskie Nagrania (Muza).

Flamingo was one of quite a few Polish Jazz ensembles playing Traditional Jazz, i.e. Ragtime, Dixieland and New Orleans, as part of the Traditional Jazz Revival, which swept Europe in the 1950s and 1960s. It was founded by pianist Jerzy Derfel, bassist Henryk Pietrewicz and banjoist Lucjan Wozniak. They were soon joined by drummer Janusz Nalaskowski and clarinetist Eugeniusz Pudelewicz. Other group members present on this album were trumpeters Piotr Nadolski and Ryszard Podgorski, and trombonists Andrzej Dorawa, Edward Rykaczewski and Jan Tomaszewski. After the group folded, several members joined other groups; like Rama 111, which appears on an earlier release of this series, and even Niemen's group Akwarele.

The group performed mostly Traditional Jazz standards, with their youthful energy and zest overcoming the lack of experience. The overall level of performances was nothing short of excellent, which gained them quite a following and respect at the time. They performed in several European countries and participated in many jazz festivals. Since their split they managed to get briefly reunited a few times celebrating their past. Most of the Flamingo members live now outside of Poland.

This is another great piece of Polish Jazz history, which should definitely be told and preserved as part of the country's Cultural Heritage. Kudos to Marcin Jacobson for creating this series and keeping it going!

niedziela, 28 kwietnia 2013

Agnieszka Hekiert – Stories (2012)

Agnieszka Hekiert - vocals
Konstantin Kostov - piano
Robert Kubiszyn - bass
Cezary Konrad - drums
Krzysztof Herdzin - flute
Kuba Badach - vocals
Atom String Quartet


By Adam Baruch

Polish Jazz vocalist / composer Agnieszka Hekiert, who combines the careers of a vocalist and a successful vocal coach for TV reality shows, released this album eight years after her last release called "Night And Day Swing", which she recorded with the pianist / composer Krzysztof Herdzin and his trio. In the meantime she also recorded the "European Impressions" album with my dear friend, the great Polish saxophonist / composer Leszek Zadlo, which unfortunately remains unreleased so far. From that session she carried over the Bulgarian pianist / composer Konstantin Kostov (who studied with another friend of mine, the Russian pianist / composer Leonid Tschischik, now living and teaching in Germany), who is her closest collaborator on this album. The other musicians, who constitute the piano trio on this album, are bassist Robert Kubiszyn and drummer Cezary Konrad. Guest appearances also include Herdzin on flute (yes I smiled too), vocalist Kuba Badach and the superb Atom String Quartet.

The album includes twelve songs, four of which are Kostov / Hekiert originals, another four are by Hekiert or feature her lyrics, one is a standard, one is a song by Sting, another one by Polish vocalist Kayah and the last of mysterious Far East source (sic!); overall quite a mishmash of styles and influences, which are unified by the arrangements (the arranger is not listed) and excellent performances by the piano trio. Kostov is a brilliant player, which is evident both on his solo spots and his skillful accompaniment, and so are of course veterans Kubiszyn and Konrad.

Hekiert is a talented vocalist, singing lyrics and vocalese with obvious ease and technical proficiency. Most of the vocals are in Polish, which of course is highly commendable, with few exceptions, which are unfortunately less impressive. Overall the vocal parts are kept within very safe limits of mainstream Jazz, which is somewhat lacking, as she obviously could have taken a few more risks and less obvious choices. Perhaps the fact that the album was released by Universal signifies an attempt to produce a much wider accessible music? In any case compared to some truly exciting vocal albums released in 2012 in Poland, this one sadly does not challenge any of them.

Connoisseurs of vocal Jazz will find this a pleasant listening experience, with excellent instrumental parts and professional vocal performances, no less and no more.

sobota, 27 kwietnia 2013

Piotr Domagała - Pnącza (2013)

Piotr Domagała - acoustic guitar, electric guitar, 12-string guitar
Adam Kawończyk - trumpet, flugelhorn, flute
Sławek Berny - tabla, udu, cajon, bongos, djembe, electric tampura, chekere

Pnącza (2013)

By Maciej Nowotny

Piotr Domagała as a guitarist stands alone among other musicians playing on this instrument in Poland. Not only he is a true virtuoso but his mature artistic vision encompassing as much jazz, as Slav folk and world music, unites all these influences into one unique language unmistakably his own.

This is only his second disc after outstanding debut "Slavonic Tales" released in 2009. Unlike others musicians, especially of younger generation, Domagała is neither prolific nor he changes projects and partners like gloves. Inversely he has focused on one enterprise and same musicians to be able to dug deeper into the matter of music.

The effect is fully satisfactory. I should perhaps do not use any labels to describe this music as they would all be misleading. But if forced I would prefer to call it "free mainstream" as it is as close to orthodox jazz as to classical music but first of all free in spirit. 

The success of this venture would be impossible without excellent partners of Domagała: trumpeter Adam Kawończyk and percussionist Sławek Berny. They are both well known and established musicians on our jazz scene. Together they form a trio like no other in Polish jazz and one of very few on European scene. Bound to the highest standards of performance, faithful to jazz and classical music heritage, at the same time they are brave enough to experiment and search for new lands. What else is necessary to make a listener happy? Perhaps one more thing should be mentioned as the sound on this CD is extremely well recorded and mixed which makes the rehearsal of this music even more enjoyable.

PKS Trio – Przystanek Pierwszy (2012)

Sebastian Rucinski - guitar
Kosma Kalamarz - bass
Przemyslaw Smaczny - drums


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish ensemble PKS Trio, which is a guitar trio consisting of guitarist Sebastian Rucinski, bassist Kosma Kalamarz and drummer Przemyslaw Smaczny. The album presents seven original compositions, authors of which remain unspecified letting one to assume they are all group compositions. Information about the date and place of recording is also missing, but the sound quality, clarity and ambience are excellent, creating a nice balance between the electric and acoustic sound of the trio.

The music is a pretty unique mixture of numerous elements, like Blues, Flamenco and Gypsy music, mixed obviously with Jazz tradition and bits of Fusion. Based on clear melodic motifs the music is stretched out by lengthy improvised passages, with plenty of space for individual soloing. Overall this is very accessible music, which might appeal to both less experienced listeners and veteran connoisseurs, who will find many elegant and delightful moments, especially the wonderful dialogue between the guitar and the bass guitar.

The performances are very good as well, with the guitarist displaying excellent technique and self confidence, the bassist accompanying the guitar faithfully and intelligently throughout and playing some superb solos along the way and the drummer keeping time unobtrusively and precisely. Overall this high level displayed by these young musicians is beyond reproach. The only minor point of criticism might be that the album stays at the same emotional level almost without exception and the music shows little diversity, which creates an overall impression that every track is a bit more of the same. This will surely be improved in their future releases, when the trio gains more experience with producing albums.

Listeners, who love melodic guitar, will find this album delightful immediately, others might need another listening opportunity, but this music eventually wins over most mainstream Jazz lovers. Definitely a debut worthy of respectful approbation!

piątek, 26 kwietnia 2013

Krzysztof Herdzin – Almost After (2000)

Krzysztof Herdzin - piano
Adam Cegielski - bass
Cezary Konrad - drums


By Adam Baruch

This is an early album by Polish Jazz pianist / composer Krzysztof Herdzin and his debut recording as a leader of a classic piano trio with bassist Adam Cegielski and drummer Cezary Konrad. It presents eight original compositions, all by Herdzin. At the time this album was recorded Herdzin was a regular member of the ensemble led by Polish Jazz veteran Zbigniew Namyslowski and his reputation as a rising piano prodigy was already pretty much established, but this recording also presents his talent as a composer.

This is a classic piano trio album, in the tradition established decades earlier and polished to perfection by generation of legendary pianists and their respective rhythm sections. Therefore it's extremely difficult to be original or groundbreaking in that specific niche, perhaps even more so than in any other Jazz endeavor. Herdzin doesn't break any particular new ground here, but his passionate playing, accompanied by obvious virtuosity and brilliant technique, manages to create a most impressive piece of Jazz music and a remarkable debut effort. From the very early recorded projects Herdzin exposes a tendency for perfection, well reflected here. His control of timbre, tempo and tone are all excellent and the result sounds accordingly.

Of course even the best pianist is only as good as his rhythm section allows and in this case his partners stand with him shoulder to shoulder, complimenting his efforts with superb companionship and affinity. Overall the trio effort is accomplished here to the fullest, and again, since this is a debut effort, the result is above the level of expectations in such cases.

As a composer, Herdzin emerges here most dominantly as a weaver of great melodies, which fall nicely on the listener's ears, but are in fact quite complicated and very well crafted. Most of his compositions on this album lack the typical Polish Jazz melancholy, which characterizes most of its output, but includes one heartbreaking ballad, which Herdzin uses skillfully to show his arpeggio skills. These pieces are mostly mid-tempo and transmit a happy, cheerful state of mind, which is a nice and refreshing change for once.

In retrospect this is still a very nice album, which can be enjoyed both by Jazz novices and refined connoisseurs, each of them on a different level. Herdzin's numerous talents as composer / arranger and a formidably multi-talented / ferociously busy Artist were yet to come at that stage. The album was released as an add-on to the European Jazz magazine Jazz Forum and was never released commercially. A reissue should definitely be considered, bringing this music to a much wider audience. A splendid piece of work by all means!

Katowice JazzArt Festival 2013

The second edition of JazzArt Festival held in Katowice will present to the audience an extremely diverse programme. We will listen to a lot of jazz in its various forms, but as usually with contemporary music its affinities will be wide: from classical music or avant-garde to electronic, world music and pop. Most importantly there will always float over this musical melting the omnipresent spirit of improvisation. Not without reason, the theme of this festival is a phrase uttered by Telonious Monk "JAZZ TO FREEDOM". Jazz always has been open, able to assimilate different musical threads of which it created a new artistic quality. During 18 concerts in 7 locations in Katowice will perform both recognized jazz stars and artists only applying for such status. Among the foreign guests we may count artists of such a calibre as Manu Katche, Roberto Fonseca or Jan Garbarek & The Hilliard Ensemble. Polish jazz scene will be represented by, among others, Tie Break with Michał Urbaniak or Marcin Masecki. The organizer of the Katowice JazzArt Festival is Cultural Institution Katowice - City of Gardens.

26.04.2013 (Friday) 
18.30 New Tide Orquestra (Rialto)
21.00 Tie Break & Michał Urbaniak (Rialto)
22.30 Jon Irabagon Organ Trio (Hipnoza)

27.04.2013 (Saturday)
18.30 Erik Truffaz 4tet (Rialto)
20.30 Led Bib & Elektro Guzzi (Hipnoza)
22.00 Piotr Damasiewicz ImproGraphic (Gugalander)

28.04.2013 (Sunday)
18.30 Julian Gembalski & Hop-Beats (Rialto)
20.30 Roberto Fonseca (Hipnoza)
22.00 Boeing: Masecki & Górczyński (Gugalander)

30.04.2013 (Tuesday)
18.30 Manu Katche (Rialto)
20.30 Sons of Kemet (Hipnoza)
21.00 Jakub Kościuszko (Katofonia)
22.00 Marek Kądziela Das Quartet (Rajzefiber)

01.05.2013 (Wednesday)
20.30 Jan Garbarek & The Hilliard Ensemble
22.00 Burnt Friedman & Jaki Liebezeit (Hipnoza)

czwartek, 25 kwietnia 2013

Kamil Szuszkiewicz & Marcin Zabrocki - Szuszkiewicz/Zabrocki (Element Works, 2012)

Kamil Szuszkiewicz - trumpet
Marcin Zabrocki - baritone saxophone, electronics

By Stef Gijssels

Produced in only 40 handmade copies, you can be very happy if you still can acquire a copy, but I can guarantee that it's worth more than its money and postage. The duo are Kamil Szuszkiewicz on trumpet and Marcin Zabrocki on baritone saxophone and electronics.

The eight tracks are fully improvised and of an astonishing beauty, slow, deliberate, cautious, bluesy and sad. My favorite of the lot.

Pad Dap - Raab (2012)

Pad Dab (band)

Anna Maria Pękalska - saxophone
Rafał Gąsior - piano
Alicja Szczypta - bass
Bartosz Wojdak - drums

Raab (2012)

(Editor) Elements of fusion, folk and jazz are all present on this recording but performances unfortunately are on amateur level.

środa, 24 kwietnia 2013

J=J - 2013 EP (2013)

Joanna Duda - synths, voice (6)
Jan Młynarski - drums, synth, voice (6)
Agim Dżeljilji - synth (track 3, 5)
Ive Ostrowska - voice & lyrics (track 5)

(Editor) Electronic improvised experimental - these keywords well decribe this EP by this young collective led by talented pianist and keyboardist Joanna Duda.

wtorek, 23 kwietnia 2013

Rafal Gorzycki / Kamil Pater – Therapy (EP) (2013)

Rafal Gorzycki - percussion
Kamil Pater - guitar

MW 005

By Adam Baruch

This album presents a live recording by a duo of Polish Jazz musicians: percussionist / composer Rafal Gorzycki and guitarist / composer Kamil Pater. These two talented personalities met earlier on, when they were both members of quartets, which recorded the splendid "Dziki Jazz" and later "A-Kineton" albums and here they cooperate in a much more intimate framework of a duo, which is of course more demanding and challenging. The album includes one continuous piece of music, performed without any breaks and edited as a single track. The music is not credited specifically to the participants and therefore should be considered as spontaneously created "on the fly" by the duo members. The music last for about 34 minutes, which marks this album as an EP rather than a full CD. It is a limited numbered edition of 200 copies only.

Musically this is a mixture of many different musical elements, inspirations and influences, obviously well based in the Jazz tradition of improvisation, but also encompassing electronic music, Rock and Fusion elements, folkloristic motifs and contemporary Classical structures. Although improvised and spacey / free, it also includes clear melody lines and forms, which makes it much more accessible to less experienced listeners than most Improvised Music recordings. Gorzycki and Pater have both already proven that although they feel very comfortable in the Free Jazz environment, they stay relaxed and elegant cleverly eschewing the aggression and alienation often associated with that genre.

As always with duo projects, the most essential quality a listener expects to find is the level of dialogue between the musicians and their mutual understanding / connection. This recording is a superb example of an almost telepathic bond developing between musicians playing together, which is always a source of great pleasure for the listener. In addition both these players display a masterly control of virtuosic proportions of their respective instruments, which is awe inspiring.

The music Gorzycki and Pater play here is quite different from what they played on earlier recordings, which of course gives us the opportunity to discover other layers of their complex artistic personalities. It is truly admirable that they continue to create and discover new territory time after time. This restlessness is an essential quality, which characterizes great explorers, and we, the bystanders have the enormous pleasure of reaping the fruits of they labor.

Overall this is a beautiful piece of extremely interesting music, which is unconventional, bold and experimental and yet at the same time is quite listenable and inviting. Very well done indeed!

środa, 17 kwietnia 2013

Polish-Jazz blog provides media patronage for new album by Irek Wojtczak !!!

Irek Wojtczak

Irek Wojtczak - saxophones, bass clarinet
Kamil Pater - guitar
Adam Żuchowski - double bass
Kuba Staruszkiewicz - drums

The Bees' Knees (2013)

By Adam Baruch

Jazz is the Art of the unexpected and unexpected is exactly what the listener will get while listening to this music. Although saxophonist / composer Irek Wojtczak, a native of the Baltic Tricity, has an established reputation on the contemporary Polish Jazz scene, he certainly does not allow anybody to conveniently put him and his music in a tight niche, which would characterize his music. Constantly developing, probing and expanding his milieu, which over time covered such diverse areas as mainstream Jazz, Jazz-World Fusion, Jazz-Rock Fusion and experimental Free Jazz, Wojtczak with his chameleonic ability to fit in any environment and to do it splendidly, is a superb example of a modern Jazz musician.

The music presented here is first and foremost an expression of individual freedom within the boundaries of a collective. The four musicians truly play together here, but at the same time allow each other a lot of individual space. There are clearly defined melodies and chord changes, but the music turns and twists constantly in each and every direction – harmonic, rhythmic and thematic. There are impressive solos, elegant group improvisations and intelligent moves on behalf of all the participants. Wojtczak, who composed all the music herein, is a very liberal leader, which results in collective creativity rather than musical conformity or obedience. The choice of the guitar, rather than piano, as the quartet's harmonic instrument suits Wojtczak's music ideally in this case. All that remains is to hop on and enjoy the ride!

wtorek, 16 kwietnia 2013

TRC Trio – Now New (2013)

Tomasz Gadecki - saxophone
Rafal Mazur - bass
Connor Murray - drums


By Adam Baruch

This is a live recording by the Polish Free Jazz / Improvised Music TRC Trio, which comprises of saxophonist Tomasz Gadecki, bassist Rafal Mazur and drummer Connor Murray. Gadecki is also a member of the excellent Olbrzym I Kurdupel duo, which released a couple of albums earlier. The music is completely improvised and therefore not specifically credited to any individual musician but considered a common spontaneous creation. Technically the music is sub-divided into four tracks on the album, but those remain nameless and unlisted.

This kind of music is a wonderful example of the spur of the moment creation which Improvised Music offers its listeners, for good and for bad. It is all about "now" and if the "now" happens to be able to create musical magic, as it does in this case, all is fine, but of course this in not always the case. There is no formula, which can foretell such result, things just happen. But when talented and completely dedicated musicians, such as these three herein, meet and create music, anything can happen.

There are many wonderful moments of highly inspired performances here, with Gadecki performing some amazing saxophone magic repeatedly, with virtuosity and flair. He is certainly worth following as one of the strongest players emerging on the Polish scene. His companions stand up shoulder to shoulder with his demanding leads, proving worthy of the challenge.

Of course there is the barrier separating these musicians and their audience, which in order to be able to let in this music into their consciousness has to let go of all pre-conceptions, limitations and traditional musical experience and simply flow with the sonic experience these musicians offer. The effort such music requires is definitely worth making, as this music can be deeply moving and wonderfully entertaining intellectually.

The album itself is another document of the incredible Polish Free Jazz / Improvised Music scene, which keeps producing some truly exceptional music in the last decade or so, surely being one of the most prolific and most advanced scenes on which these genres flourish. With new generations of players boldly stepping in and joining the ranks as well as visiting musicians from all over the world participating and collaboration with the locals, the resulting scene is simply marvelously alive and productive.

Improvised Music fans will find this most interesting and although this kind of music caters only to a tiny minority, it compensates emotionally and intellectually those dedicated enough to give it their ears.

poniedziałek, 15 kwietnia 2013

Marta Krol – The First Look (2011)

Marta Krol - vocals
Dawid Glowczewski - saxophone
Pawel Tomaszewski - piano
Andrzej Swies - bass
Pawel Dobrowolski - drums
Tomasz Kalwak - keyboards


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut solo album by Polish vocalist Marta Krol, a beautiful Silesian Princess whose looks turn men into stone on sight ;) On the album she presents ten Jazz and Pop standards, dressed up in excellent new arrangements, by keyboardist / arranger Tomasz Kalwak, who also plays some additional keyboards on the album. She is accompanied by a wonderful quartet of Polish Jazz musicians: saxophonist Dawid Glowczewski, pianist Pawel Tomaszewski, bassist Andrzej Swies and drummer Pawel Dobrowolski.

Krol has a delightfully warm voice, which she uses most effectively and with a natural charm and sex-appeal. Her musical education is immediately apparent, as she stays in tune at all times, even during the tricky passages and obviously keeps well in-synch with her band. The accompaniment is excellent, with many interesting solo spots by Glowczewski, beautiful piano and Fender Rhodes parts by Tomaszewski and solid and sympathetic support from the rhythm section with virtuosic, but kept in low profile bass parts by Swies, who is consistently perfect every time he appears on record and earns a well deserved position among the best contemporary Polish bassists.

However, in spite of the Jazzy arrangements and instrumental passages, this album is only marginally Jazzy per se. Krol lacks the Jazz sensitivities and fundamental improvisational approach, singing mostly "straight forward". That does not mean she is doing anything wrong, but if the purpose of this album was to present her as a Jazz singer, it fails to do so. Nevertheless it is a very pleasant and well done piece of music, which deserves all praise, especially in view of the fact that it is her debut effort.

Of course there is the usual problem of Polish vocalists stubbornly trying to sing in English, which is an insurmountable barrier, which simply keeps reappearing on almost all vocal albums recorded in the country. It's not that Krol's pronunciation and accent are terribly wrong; in fact they are not too bad at all, but her struggle to sound "right" takes away her attention from the music, as always.

My advice to the lovely young lady would be perhaps to try and find out her unique own style, which would amalgamate Soul, Pop, Blues and just a dash of Jazz, and which would serve her vocal talents to the max. And of course perhaps a bit more risk-taking and ambitious material, original if possible and preferably in Polish – with such a formula she is destined to reach places. But than again, who am I, an old fart, to give advice to lovely young ladies singing the Blues?

Overall this is an impressive debut, which holds many promises for those with patience to wait for the lady's future endeavors. I certainly intend to do so.

niedziela, 14 kwietnia 2013

Kirk - Msza Święta w Altonie (2012); Kirk - Zła krew (2013)

(Editor) Kirk is an collective which experiments with blending electronically propelled trance music with improvisation. This last element as much as the presence of talented trumpeter Olgierd Dokalski justify placing info about this album on our blog. If you want to learn more about this project please read excellent review by Joe Higham of their debut album "Msza Święta w Brąswaldzie" (2012). Here we are presenting you their two newest discs. While "Msza Święta w Altonie" is more like yet another improvisation on same themes as present on their debut album, "Zła Krew" is conceived as something new. 

Kirk (band)

Paweł Bartnik - electronis
Olgierd Dokalski - trumpet
Filip Kalinowski - gramophones

Msza Święta w Altonie (2012)

The holy mass in Altona is a journey into the unknown. It's an improvisation and a constant dialogue with sound; a trance and a meditation. The ritual. It is also a recording of the concert that took place at the Polish-Ukrainian Festival Jazz Bez (07.12.12) held in the Warsztaty Kultury venue in the city of Lublin. The concert during which the musicians from the kIRk band and the Altona duo - Paweł Bartnik (PC), Filip Kalinowski (turntable), Olgierd Dokalski (trumpet), and Wojciech Kwapisiński (guitar) - met for the first time onstage. (source: https://soundcloud.com/kirkkirk/msza-swieta-w-altonie)

Kirk (band)

Paweł Bartnik - electronis
Olgierd Dokalski - trumpet
Filip Kalinowski - gramophones

Zła krew (2013)

A man rots from the head first. Miasma remains trapped in ears and annihilates clear hearing. The sound is needed that will break through the barriers. Self-knowledge is needed to catch this sound. Improvisation is the only way to move downwards, to descend lower where the tones gain a physical dimension. “Zła krew” ("Evil Blood") is an expedition. “Zła krew” ("Evil Blood") is the second album of the kIRk band. A shattered structure, derived from improvisation, where the 20th century music heritage reverberates. The echo of the present manifests in the electronic tones, the vinyl hum and the sound of a trumpet. (source: https://soundcloud.com/kirkkirk/pies-zdech)

sobota, 13 kwietnia 2013

Maciej Czajkowski Trio - EP (2013)

Maciej Czajkowski Trio

Maciej Czajkowski - piano
Mariusz Praśniewski - double bass
Karol Domański - drums

EP (2013)

Maciej Czajkowski Trio is a Polish acoustic jazz group. The members are currently studying at the Carl NielsenAcademy Of Music in Odense, Denmark where the band was formed. Our music is a combination of Scandinavian jazz approach to space, melody and atmosphere with a modern groove, harmony and improvisation. The EP is a trailer of concert tour and regular album. (source: http://maciejczajkowskitrio.bandcamp.com/)

piątek, 12 kwietnia 2013

Wojtek Fedkowicz Noise Trio - Post Digital Dreamers (2013)

Wojtek Fedkowicz Noise Trio

Dominik Wania - keyboards, electronics
Jacek Fedkowicz - bass, electronics
Wojtek Fedkowicz - drums, electronics

Post Digital Dreamers 

Text by Dirk Blasejezak

To understand “Post-Digital Dreamers” one has probably to know the history of Wojtek Fedkowicz’ Noise Trio. It all started as a proof-of-concept project to show the influences of Drum & Bass on playing styles on the drums which lead to a longer collaboration in this band. This is important as there are lots of influences to hear on this album - and not only on the drums.

The trio manages to make a groove of most uneven bars like 11/8. I really like that, but I had in some breaks to stick with Saul Williams’ advise: “If you must count to keep the beat then count.” [from “Coded language”.] Those difficult bars are one of the ideas behind D&B and Wojtek and Jacek Fedkowicz (who are responsible for drums and basses) transport this perfectly on the album.

Dominik Wania on the keys is probably best known of the three from his works with Piotr Baron, Jacek Kochan, and Maciej Obara to mention just a few. What’s interesting here is, that there aren’t too many melodies he can use as a framework for his play - another drum & bass influence - so he is not that omnipresent he would be as the only lead instrument in a normal piano trio. This doesn’t mean that he (or the others) are not playing well - you just have to keep in mind what the band was about in the first place.

There is of course more to this record and from the line-up one can see, that all three are extensively using electronics. There’s no problem with that - quite the contrary - they’re just great. But I have to admit that I didn’t like this record very much in the first place, despite the technical perfection - or maybe because of it. I for one like it a bit less clean but that’s just preferential. Still that almost made me miss "Polskie Drogi 2.0", a wonderful composition and my favorite song on this album that’s unfortunately almost at the end of the record (you find a live recording of this song below). If you just like me have some problems with the crispy or digital sound I suggest you start with that video to get an impression of the playfulness of the band.

niedziela, 7 kwietnia 2013

Jola Szczepaniak - Babagada (2010)

Jola Szczepaniak - vocal

Christoph Reuter - piano, Rhodes, Nordlead
Steffen Illner - double bass
Jens Dohle - drums
Andrzej Jagodziński - piano
Marcin Pospieszalski - fretless
Marcin Pepe Olkowski - flugelhorn, trąbka

Baltic Neopolis Quartet: Łukasz Górewicz - skrzypce, Karolina Uźniak - skrzypce, Emilia Goch - altówka, Tomasz Szczęsny - wiolonczela

Szczecin Gospel Choir directed by Edyta & Izabela Turowski

Babagada (2010)

Text by Maciej Nowotny

I often say about the renaissance of Polish jazz in recent years. One of its symptoms is growing number of vocal jazz recordings, especially female. Unfortunately in this case the number does not go with the quality which is rather low. Many of these projects are standard, secondary, unambitious. Singing is poor, for me who for years was enamoured in great opera singers, it is really a torture to listen how bad articulations are, how negligent phrasing, how clumsy spelling, particularly when text is in English. But there are exceptions which give hope that future ahead of Polish vocal jazz may still be bright: Aga Zaryan (check her "Looking Walking Being") or Grzegorz Karnas (check his "Audiobeads") being good examples. 

Among them I would also place Jola Szczepaniak and her debut album "Babagada". Student of famous Berklee College of Music in Boston, she also won numerous jazz contests among which the prize at respected Jazz Nad Odrą festival should be highlighted. Excellently educated and herself a teacher of singing in music college in Szczecin, she proved to be in this project a perfectionist in every detail. She invited excellent musicians as much from Poland (Andrzej Jagodziński, Marcin Pospieszalski, Marcin Pepe Olkowski) as from Germany (Christoph Reuter, Steffen Illner, Jens Dohle). If that was not enough she also employed string quartet and gospel choir!

But it was worth it. Regardless that so many musicians took place in its recording, the music on this album is coherent. It can be placed somewhere between maistream jazz, nu jazz and pop but all labels are irrevelant here. The most important is that music sounds fresh and is meticoulosly perfomed while singing of Szczepaniak is free, full of emotions, at moments ecstatic. I must say I am impressed. She is obviously a great passionate of music and this feeling easily transfers itself to listener. What is important her singing and her partners playing the instruments are perfectly complemented by great song writing by Piotr Klimak who as far a texts are concerned was skillfully assisted by (mainly) Konrad Dworakowski. The effect is very encouraging and I can only whoheartedly recommend this album!

sobota, 6 kwietnia 2013

Jan Jarczyk - Round, Round & Round (2013)

Jan Jarczyk - piano

Morgan Moore - double bass
Jim Doxas - drums

Round, Round & Round (2013)

Text by Maciej Nowotny

The curse of Poland was (still is?) that we were losing so much talent because of emigration.  For different reasons of course: often political, but usually more prosaic, economical. Jan Jarczyk is good example of how such stories may be painful as much to our country as to individuals as he interrupted his extremely promising career by leaving Poland for the U.S. and then Canada.

He was born in 1947 in Cracow that is in the same city as Tomasz Stańko and of the same generation. Naturally they played with each other many times but it applies to most of the best jazz musicians in Poland in late 60ties and in early 70ties when Jarczyk was simply one of the most promising young pianists in Poland. However all this took place so long time ago that younger generation, including myself, virtually forgot him. Only recently he was reminded to our audience by GAD Records which issued "Nora" (2010). Recorded in 1969 and 1970 by Zbigniew Seifert Quartet it remained unreleased for 50 years! It features Jarczyk on piano showing how gifted musician he was even at beginnings of his career. Just one year later in 2011 this same label released his new disc titled "Smoked Pianos" which was a stunnig quality piano jazz duo. And now, what a acceleration indeed, at the beginning of 2013, his third album in just three years comes and as good as only one could hope for! 

It is recorded in classical jazz piano trio format with string quartet. Jarczyk partners in trio are Morgan Moore on double bass and Jim Doxas on bass. Both trio and strings play impeccably. The sound is crystal clear. Harmonies are resounding in listener's ears with utmost precision and clarity. There are in Poland only handful of pianists who could compare with Jarczyk in terms of technique and musicality. Marcin Wasilewski has similar elegance, perhaps also Piotr Wyleżoł and Miachał Tokaj. On the other hand such a high level of competence could be expected from someone who taught harmony and composition at Berklee College of Music and is now a music professor at McGill University in Montreal.

Although a concept of mixing jazz and classics is nothing new here it is carried out with such a class that one cannot resist to admire this music. It reminds a lot last year album by saxophonist Andrzej Olejniczak & Apertus String Quartet titled "Different Choice". It is kind of interesting that Olejniczak is also an emigrant - he now lives in Spain. They both kind of return to Polish scene after many years of absence. It seems to me far from being just a mere coincidence. It is simply a result of resurgence of jazz music in Poland, its astonishing renaissance and of general changes in our country which after joining the E.U. in 2004 has quickly become part of Europe and the same cultural circle as Spain or the U.S. All in all, to this positive political changes we owe also this awesome piece of music. Allelujah!

Aga Kiepuszewska – Silence (2012)

Aga Kiepuszewska - vocals
Nikola Kolodziejczyk - piano
Maciej Szczycinski - bass
Robert Rasz - drums


by Adam Baruch

This is the debut solo album by Polish Jazz vocalist / songwriter Aga Kiepuszewska, who also took part in the phenomenal album she recorded with the Polish Jazz ensemble Soundcheck, called "Marysia – Wiersze Z Kazachstanu". On this album Aga presents ten original songs, five of which were composed by Soundcheck's leader, saxophonist Maciej Kocinski, two by keyboardist Nikola Kolodziejczyk, who accompanies Aga on this album, another two by keyboardist Kamil Urbanski and the remaining one by Aga herself. Aga wrote the lyrics to eight of the songs (two in English and the rest in Polish) and the remaining two are poems by the great Polish poet and Nobel Prize laureate Czeslaw Milosz. One of the songs appears twice on the album, the second time as a bonus track in the form of a radio edit. The two other musicians supporting Aga on this album are bassist Maciej Szczycinski and drummer Robert Rasz.

This is definitely a very ambitious project, which reflects Aga's many talents at their best. The fact that the album made little impact on the local scene is truly criminal, and the only logical explanation could be the astonishing plentitude of wonderful Jazz being produced in Poland these days, but nevertheless this is an album, which deserves much more attention.

As a vocalist, Aga emerges full of self confidence and wonderful sensibility, which is evident from the moment she opens her mouth. She is in full control of her voice, both on the acoustic as well as the emotional scales. Her timbre and mannerisms are remarkably close to those of the "other" Aga of Polish Jazz, Aga Zaryan of course. Perhaps the fact that Aga Kiepuszewska chose to sing deeply lyrical and poetic material and her innermost feelings are reflected in her vocals are the cause of the proximity. However, there is no attempt here of consciously copying Zaryan's style, and the young Kiepuszewska will surely reach her completely unique and personal manner of expression in the not too distant feature.

The amazing lyrics Aga wrote for her songs are another big surprise, which in the age when completely moronic songs rule the airwaves, are truly exceptional. Deeply personal, these little pearls are remarkably poetic and meaningful, fitting the music perfectly. Good lyrics are so difficult to find these days and this album is full of them; how wonderful!

Aga gets a superb support from the trio, which accompanies her with obvious empathy and elegance. Kolodziejczyk is a great player with virtuosic qualities and remarkable sensitivity, and is one of the upcoming stars of the Polish Jazz scene. Szczycinski, who plays solidly and supportively, also uses arco passages and even utilizes the Middle Eastern oud to make the outmost effort to make this music as perfect as possible. Rasz also makes the best of it all, playing with varying intensity always in sync with the music and utilizing additional percussion instruments to enhance the overall result.

All in all this is a remarkable debut effort, which hopefully is a forerunner to other great achievements, just please Aga don't keep us in suspense for too long. This is wholeheartedly recommended to all lovers of vocal Jazz, Polish Jazz and good music in all forms and shapes. Kudos!

piątek, 5 kwietnia 2013

Jaromir Honzak feat. Sissel Vera Pettersen - Blood Sings: Music of Susanne Vega (2013)

Jaromir Honzak feat. Sissel Vera Pettersen

Sissel Vera Pettersen - vocal, electronics
Jaromír Honzák - acoustic bass, electric bass
Josef Stepánek - electric guitar, pedal steel guitar, baritone guitar, terz guitar
Vit Kristan - piano, Fender Rhodes piano, keyboards
Lukasz Zyta - drums, percussion

Blood Sings: Music of Susanne Vega (2013)

We often forget that jazz always was a part of so-called pop music. This fact escapes our attention because in recent decades there was a trend in jazz to flirt with the classics AND to treat itself SO seriously. If you look at Keith Jarrett, Brad Mehldau or Wynton Marsalis you can see that they play jazz as classical music. Moreover they are so grave, serious and solemn that in consequence listening to them is rather dull and tedious task for me. I admire their genius but it kinda overwhelms me too much to stay comfortable with their music. I feel much more at ease with those jazz musicians, like for example Miles Davis, who choose rather to turn toward pop music. Such excursions frequently fail, they were also controversial in Davis case, but if they work they have potential to refresh and redefine whole genre. Since few years such escapades into pop territory has become more and more common which I found very interesting especially when such attempts are so successful as "Blood sings".

The album is signed by Czech bassist Jaromir Honzak. This gentleman is a pivotal figure on small but respectable scene of this country. Up to this moment he was well known from recording typical mainstream jazz that could be characterized by extremely high level of performance and by inspiring compositions penned by the leader. On this disc however you will find only one his composition while all nine other are songs by legendary American singer & songwriter Susanne Vega. Further he invited to this project Norwegian singer Sissel Vera Pettersen who is known to me from a fantastic collective called Equilibrium. Their last disc "Walking Voices" released in 2011 made very positive impression on me. Last but not least Honzak took three young lads to support her: guitarist Josef Stepanek, prodigiously talented pianist Vit Kristan (educated in Music Academy in Katowice, Poland) and Polish top drummer Łukasz Żyta. 

These five musicians produce before our ears a grand spectacle of sounds and moods full of colours and creativity. Do not expect yet another uninspired rendition of famous "Tom's Diner" or "Luca". They chose lesser known tunes of Susanne Vega and turbocharged them so you feel like listen to them for the first time. Yes! Its fresh, it's surprising, it's exhilarating. It's not "jazz" in negative sense of this word and it's not "pop" if you understood it as pejorative term. Its something very natural, coherent, aesthetically refined and simultaneously very communicative. Brilliant stuff indeed!

czwartek, 4 kwietnia 2013

Mikrokolektyw - Absent Minded (2013)


Artur Majewski - trumpet, cornets, electronics
Kuba Suchar - drums, percussion, electronics

Absent Minded (2013)

By Ken Shimamoto

Forward-thinking American jazz musicians have made a ton of important and influential recordings for European labels, but seeing an exploratory European outfit on an American label is more of a rarity. So it was a noteworthy event when the Polish duo Mikrokolektyw – drummer Kuba Suchar and trumpeter Artur Majewski – released their debut disc "Revisit" and the live DVD "Dew Point" on Chicago-based indie Delmark back in 2010.

In operation for over half a century, Delmark’s revered in jazz circles for releasing some of the earliest waxings of Sun Ra and the first recordings by the musicians who would become the Art Ensemble of Chicago, as well as a stack of seminal urban blues discs by Junior Wells, Magic Sam, and J.B. Hutto, among others. Producer Raymond Salvador Harmon heard them in 2007 and brought them to the label.

Suchar and Majewski, refugees from imploded Polish jazz supergroup Robotobibok, deftly combine the natural sounds of their instruments with electronic elements – more seamlessly integrated on this new release than on their debut - creating a sound that is simultaneously timeless and of its moment. (I’ve heard Dallas-based drummer Gerard Bendiks and trumpeter Chris Curiel pull off a similar gambit, with the addition of a spoken word artist, in Swirve.)

Suchar’s integration of tuned percussion and sampling with his traps gives Mirokolektyw a broad sonic palette, ranging from lapidary gamelan sounds to seething atmospheric textures. On “Dream About The One,” they careen into Edgard Varese territory. Majewski’s voice on trumpet recalls both the majestic loneliness of Miles Davis and the multicultural extroversion of Don Cherry. The proximate model for a trumpet-percussion duo is Cherry and Ed Blackwell’s Mu, but the musos in Mikrokolektyw are clearly their own guys. At times, Majewski sounds like the voice of a lost traveler, soliloquizing as he stumbles through the dense forest of Suchar’s drum clatter. An early candidate for my “best of 2013” list.

poniedziałek, 1 kwietnia 2013

International Jazzpocalypse - Live in Torun (2013)

International Jazzpocalypse (band)

Kuba Skowronski - saxophone
Wojtek Swieca - guitar
Sebastian Zawadzki - piano
Asger Nordtorp Pedersen - bass
Janosch Pangritz - drums

Live in Torun (2013)

Every now and then there happens in Polish jazz a debut so good that it heralds the emergence of strong and unique personality that may join those who give direction to this music in our country. We were recently awed by the fantastic debut of the band called Tone Raw (check Adam Baruch's review) featuring young pianist Sebastian Zawadzki. And now in comes his second album and it is at least equally interesting showing clearly that Zawadzki's star is ascending.

Born in 1991 in Toruń he is one of many talented lads who in recent years studied in Music Academy in Odense, Denmark. Together with Tomasz Dąbrowski, Tomek Licak and Marek Kądziela they form kind of "Danish Wave" in Polish jazz. They all can be characterized as having both high level of competence on their respective instruments AND openness for what is alive and actual in contemporary jazz. 

One additional feature which can attributed to these young musicians is an ease with which they mingle with their peers not only from Poland but also from Scandinavia, Germany, other European countries and from the U.S. Most of their projects are "international" with modern jazz being a common language which allows youth from so many different countries and cultures to work together. In itself a great thing especially when so successful from artistic point of view.

Apart from above mentioned Zawadzki on piano we find here his compatriots  Jakub Skowroński on saxophone and Wojtek Świeca on guitar. Their playing is outstanding! Skowroński tone is sparing but very elegant, it resembles a bit Wayne Shorter thoughtful style. Świeca also makes an excellent impression on me: emphatic  compassionate, blending well with whole ensemble which is not so often met in young musicians.

Danish-German rhythm section consisting of, respectively, bassist Asger Nordtrop and drummer Janosh Pangritz cannot be praised too much! I am especially impressed by Pangritz whose play is very individual and additionally he composed or co-composed three pieces out of four on this album. All these young artists seem to have bright future ahead of them. Their class impressed me even more when taking into account that though young they also work magnificently as a collective. 

The result is music that can be described as modern mainstream: enough adventurous to attract those interested in avantjazz yet very communicative so it can appeal to those who value a lot more traditional jazz language. In short, a brilliant achievement of these young musicians!

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